Two Samsung Display researchers have been reportedly arrested and charged with corporate espionage. According to reports coming from South Korean media, the duo leaked information related to OLED production using inkjet printing to a Chinese company, causing millions of dollars in damages to Samsung.
The identities of the two Samsung Display employees, aged 37 and 46, were not revealed. However, they both reportedly held senior positions at the display manufacturing arm of the South Korean conglomerate.
Additionally, authorities have also detained a third person in the case. This 42-year-old individual is a director at a display equipment manufacturer that Samsung had partnered with in the past. Authorities have charged the third individual with failure to protect sensitive technology leaks.
The two Samsung researchers had reportedly asked this company to develop a prototype using the leaked info, with plans to hand it over to the Chinese company. They shared process specifications that Samsung Display experimented with between November 2019 to May 2020.
Authorities are also questioning senior officials of the unnamed Chinese company, AsiaTime reports. Apparently, a former senior researcher at Samsung Display now works for the Chinese company in question.
In a similar case, South Korea had indicted 11 people for leaking Samsung’s OLED technology to China back in November 2018. They were all employees of a third-party vendor, including its CEO. More details about the newest OLED tech leak should surface in the near future as the trial begins.
Samsung researchers were leaking sensitive display tech to China
The Tech industry sees inkjet printing as the future of OLED production. Among other benefits, this technology greatly reduces the production cost of OLED panels. The inkjet printing tech can reduce the production cost of a contemporary 65-inch OLED 4K TV by as much as 20 percent as compared to the WOLED process in use today, analysts estimate.
Samsung has invested heavily in research and development (R&D) of this technology. Reports claim the company to have made investments of worth over 10 billion won (roughly $8.5 million) over the past three years. Some process specification refinements are still in progress. The two arrested men have been reportedly leaking experimental process specifications to the Chinese company.
The South Korean behemoth is hoping to begin mass production of OLED panels using the inkjet printing technology by October this year. If everything goes as per plan, Samsung will become the world's first company to use this technology. In addition to Samsung, companies from China, Japan, and Taiwan are also reportedly working on to pioneer this technology.